The NHS has become the first in the world to have carried out a heart transplant on children by bringing back to life a donor’s heart that had stopped beating.
Anna Hadley, is the first of six kids aged 12 to 16 whose lives have been saved by the heart transplant, known as donation after circulatory death (DCD).
DCD was previously only been available to adults but it has for the first time ever become available to children too thanks to a portable organ perfusion system called the TransMedics heart Organ Care System (OCS).
Anna, from Worcester, said she “feels normal again” thanks to the surgery, the Sunday Times reports.
Her ordeal started when the teenager and talented hockey player collapsed during a PE class.
Anna was taken to hospital, where she was diagnosed in January 2018 with restrictive cardiomyopathy, a condition whereby the outer muscles in the lower chambers of her heart become stiff and can’t fill properly.
The malfunctioning hindered the flow of blood to the rest of her body and heart, prompting doctors to give her parents the “life-changing” news that she needed a transplant.
As Anna went from being strong and athletic to feeling tired and out of breath after just a flight of stairs, she was fitted with a device to help ease some of the pressure in her lungs, an NHS Facebook post reads.
“It was as if someone had lifted a heavy weight from my chest”, recalled Anna. But it was only a means of minimising the pressure, not a cure.
Towards the end of 2019, doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital spoke to Anna’s parents about DCD.
Donated hearts have historically come from people who are brain-dead but whose hearts are still beating, which limits the scope for the number of transplants possible.
But surgeons have now managed to make hearts beat again after they have stopped, and successfully transplant them into children.
Anna’s parents weighed up the pros and cons and with 40 per cent of children never receiving the life-saving transplant they are waiting for, they opted for DCD.
Andrew Hadley, Anna’s dad, said: “We always tried to stay positive, but we understood the facts; there was a lack of suitable donors and around 40% of children waiting for heart transplant never receive one.
“It made the more than 20 months spent on the transplant waiting list incredibly difficult. After weighing-up the potential risks and benefits of the DCD heart transplant with a more conventional one, we realised that there was only one choice, and we’re so glad we made it.
“Five days after the transplant, Anna was walking up and down the corridors chatting away and high-fiving staff.
“It was incredible.”
Anna told the Sunday Times: “I just feel normal again. There’s nothing I cannot do now.”